Thursday, 22 September 2016

A Journey through Chianti Classico with Castello di Albola and La Locanda, Gisburn

Serata del Chianti13th September 2016
An evening at La Locanda restaurant in Gisburn celebrating 300 years of Chianti Classico with the wines of Castello di Albola.

Castello di Albola
The medieval village of Castello di Albola, the heart of the estate, lies in the Chianti hills in the municipality of Radda around 20 miles south east of Florence. The estate passed through the hands of various families of the Tuscan nobility over the centuries, but most recently came under the ownership of the Zonin family around 1970.  The estate covers some 900 hectares, planted with around 4000 olive trees and 150 hectares of vines.

We were just 11 days short of the 300th anniversary of Chianti Classico, as it was 24th September 1716 when Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici defined the boundaries of the Chianti, Pomino, Carmignano and Vald'Arno di Sopra wine growing regions  between the cities of Florence and Siena. He also established an organization to control wine production and to guard against counterfeiting. 

We were taken through the wines by Alessandro Marchesan from Zonin and through the matching food, prepared by chef Maurizio Bocchi, by Cinzia Bocchi of La Locanda.

We started, as is becoming traditional at La Locanda's special evenings with an olive oil cocktail - a bloody mary incorporating the Castello di Albola extra virgin olive oil.
A very spicy, very potent Bloody Mary with extra lushness from the olive oil
With the Bloody Mary was served what most of the table thought the best dish of the evening, a toasted slice of Maurizio Bocchi's own made Tuscan bread topped with local Lancashire cavolo nero draped with some thinly sliced lardo di Colonnata just melting on to it.  Delicious, and a perfect balance of flavours.

Crostone con lardo
Tonno del Chianti - pork shoulder cooked for 8 hours in white wine and veg, then shredded and then strained and marinaded in loads of herbs and loads of olive oil. Pulled pork Italian style I decided to call it. The thing is, it not only looked like tinned tuna, but it was impossible not to think the flavour wasn't reminiscent of tuna too.
Tonno del Chianti
  • 2013 Castello d'Albola Chianti Classico DOCGServed cool.
    A good garnet colour - not looking obviously youthful.
    Very good nose. Lots of typicity and a touch of bacon fat. And as it warms up in the glass, there's a touch of veal stock on the nose.
    Bright, savoury fruit on the palate. There's a fair bit of spice too. It almost feels like it should be a bit chunky and rustic, but then a very velvety character takes over and smooths it all out. Great length.

    The difference between this and the 2012 which followed it is remarkable, almost like different estates and different winemakers. The comparison that came to my mind was that the 2013 was like a dry stone wall to the neatly laid Accrington brick wall of the 2012.
Primo Piatto
Zuppa di farro. A rustic soup of spelt, with onion, a smoky pancetta and Pecorino Toscano DOP. Simple but delicious, and remarkably excellent with the wine.
Zuppa di farro
  • 2012 Castello d'Albola Chianti Classico DOCG
    Served en magnum.
    2012 was a cooler, more difficult year than 2013, rescued by a very good September.  A rich, deep garnet appearance. 
    Much more closed on the nose than the 2013, but also with richer, sweeter fruit, and (despite being served in magnums), this has lost its baby fat.
    Very smooth and velvety on the palate. Very good, pure, sweet fruit. A little brooding maybe. Very savoury, slightly sour cherry fruit on the finish. 
    Again despite being in magnums (the received opinion being that a wine should age more slowly, the larger the bottle), overall it's very nicely integrated with good poised. 89/100
Secondo Piatto di Pesce
Brodetto chiaro di pesce - a delicate clear fish broth with monkfish, clams, mussels and lemon sole
brodetto chiaro di pesce
  • 2015 Castello d'Albola Poggio Alle Fate Toscana IGT
    An unoaked chardonnay, made in a Chablis style. Limited production of only 10,000 bottles and, in the UK at least, destined for the on-trade ony.
    A very pale lemon straw colour. Flinty, steely nose dominated by the minerality with some salinity.
    A very austere, steely attack. Quite a firm texture in the mouth, with notable acidity. It feels quite extracted with a pear drop intensity. Very zippy and tingly in the mouth with that same salinity that was on the nose coming through on the finish.
    Very austere and a bit hard work. Pleasurable is not the word.
Secondo Piatto di Carne
Costolette di agnello con cavolo nero e salsa alle nocciole (lamb steaks with Lancashire cavolo nero and a hazelnut sauce that was delicious in itself, but also a wonderful combination with the lamb - a combination I'd never had, but a complete revelation.  Sadly the lamb was overcooked.
Costolette di agnello con cavolo nero e salsa alle nocciole
  • 2012 Castello d'Albola Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG
    A very even garnet red.
    Very attractive nose. It has a lovely perfume, cherry and a hint of rose, together with a suggestion of a sort of vaguely salted anchovy umami note and a hint of vanilla.
    Very silky attack with good concentration immediately evident and feeling very integrated. In the mouth, it builds and builds, developing a certain spiciness and increasing in rusticity. That developing rustic note makes it feel like it's about to fall apart after the elegantly restrained attack, but then it pulls itself together as more evident tannins come along and help it to reintegrate. Very well handled oak.
    It is, however, far too young. I'd score this 86/100 now, but with the potential for 88-90 when it's matured enough to be drinkable with pleasure. 89/100
  • 2013 Castello d'Albola Chianti Classico Gran Selezione
    2013 is the first vintage of the Gran Selezione, and was released for sale in June 2016.
    A lovely, integrated nose that feels more mature than the 2012 Riserva. Good, integrated fruit with a bit of subtle oak knitting it together.
    Rich, full attack. Very nicely together on the palate. A touch of salty, savoury spice on the finish. Very elegant. A real step up in terms of elegance over the other Castello di Albola Chiantis.
L'elmo di Caterina dei Medici... lo zucotto.  A magnificent, if far too large pudding, a bit like the old Russian Cake you used to be able to buy from bakeries, using up leftover cakes, soaked with booze. Here it was filled with sweet ricotta cheese, toasted hazelnuts and chocolate, the whole thing then covered in a rich chocolate ganache.  

  • 2005 Castello d'Albola Vin Santo del Chianti Classico
    An intense raisiny nose with some apricot. There's a touch of oxidative nuttiness.
    Very concentrated palate. Very, very intense. Almost painfully intense. Pretty decent acidity. It has a nice, oily, nutty feel. An extremely accomplished vin santo - one of the best I can remember having.
For this evening, I was the guest of La Locanda.